Indonesia comprises a massively diverse
range of societies and cultures; the differences between, say, the Sumbanese and
Sundanese are as marked as those between the Swedes and Sicilians. Even so, a
strong national Indonesian identity has emerged, originally through the struggle
for independence and following that, through education programs and the
promotion of Bahasa Indonesia as the national language. This is despite the fact
that Indonesia continues to be stretched by opposing forces: 'strict' Islam
versus 'moderate' Islam, Islam versus Christianity versus Hinduism, outer
islands versus Java, country versus city, traditional versus modern, rich versus
poor, the 21st century versus the past.
Even where modernisation has taken hold,
it's clear that Indonesians have a very traditionalist heart. As well as
adherence to religious ethnic traditions, social customs are maintained.
Politeness to strangers is a deeply ingrained habit throughout most of the
archipelago. Elders are still accorded great respect and the importance of
family remains high. Beyond the family, the main social unit is the village.
Half the population still lives in rural areas where labour in the fields, the
home or the market is the basis of daily life.
Previous rallies and other sailors have
mentioned that Indonesia was the highlight of their trip around the world so we
really are quite upset that we've had to by-pass huge areas of this country for
fear of being stopped by the officials and facing arrest. The island of Flores
sounded like a dream but I guess we just have to make the most of the parts that
we are able to visit once we have clearance.